Category: Earth Stewardship

The One That Got Away

The One That Got Away

Thanks Shawn for taking this photograph of me fishing.

It was a day of extremes. BIG fish and tiny fish. But it was epic!

For months I’ve watched four trout I call the trout magi. They live at a place I walked frequently. In the spring, they stayed in a certain place and have moved to more hidden places as the seasons have progressed. How do I know? Well, my friends, that’s the tale of the fish story.

I’m relatively new to fly fishing but am going into my third season and have done okay as a catch-and-release Nature lover. I wade in cold creeks to connect with the beauty, to learn from wise creatures and to generally exercise complete presence of focus and intention. These trout magi have schooled me in what it means to be a trout…at least as much as I can grasp it as a human. Observing for half an hour or so many times over several months (walking, not fishing) I have become a diligent student.

Bambi fresh out of the tying vise.

A week ago I stood behind a log at the upstream edge of a deep pool and cast across the rushing water to the other side where flat water hugged the bank. I had a feeling…… As soon as my fly kissed the surface, water erupted in a huge splash, my fly was hit and then, as I tried to set the hook, I saw that nothing was left. The fly had vanished. My custom-tied, made-up fly I named Rudolph had flown away courtesy of a trout magi.

Today, a week later, a friend from Arkansas walked up to the same area with me. She fished downstream a bit as I started wading, intent to make it back to the log. And eventually, ever-so-slowly, I made it back to this tricky place and began casting. 

Bambi wet.

I was aiming for some rough riffles. I don’t know why…because it felt fishy there today. The new fly I made, named Bambi, was sinking due to the rough water but I just let it sink. And after a few casts, it felt like a huge, underwater troll had grabbed the end of my line and was bending my 10 foot 3 weight rod nearly double. 

I set the hook and started stripping in line with my left hand, anchored the fly line briefly with my right middle finger so I could grab my net and let it hang behind me then kept stripping line as the fish was shaking her head, leaping and bucking like a wild bronco. My adrenaline level skyrocketed. And I screamed with wild abandon.

I kept a nice bend in the rod and as I directed the rainbow trout magi over into my net, I realized I couldn’t land the fish with the silly log in the way and a lot of deep water on the other side (if I slipped). So I decided to try and bring the fish around the end of the log. With net ready, I shifted my weight on the rock where I stood and turned. 

As soon as I dropped the tip of my rod a fraction in that move, the wise trout shook her head and the barbless hook went flying. Bye bye wise elder.

My knees were knocking and my hands shaking as I brought in the fly for a look. It was fine except for the golden pheasant tail feathers on the rear. Mama trout took those with her. Everything else looked just fine. The deer tail hairs were still there, the grizzly hackle and elk fur wing…all just fine. 

My friend Shawn fishing upstream

We moved upstream another half mile or so and fished. She caught a nice rainbow and released it, I landed a little brown trout and released it. When I say little, I’m not sure how it managed to bite the size 14 hook it was so small….but we had a brief meeting and off it swam.

On the way back, we stopped at a big hole. My friend fished upstream from me and I wanted to try a nice structure on the far side of the creek. It had a beautiful rhododendron sheltering the nice rocky, underwater ledge. It was so fishy I was almost certain there was a big one living there.

After several casts into this tricky area, I was able to float the fly just over the hole where the suspected trout lived. Sure enough, a big fella swam out of hiding to investigate (thank goodness for clear water so I could watch this). After the fly floated past and begin to drag, I cast into the same area and BAM! The Bambi fly did it again! This time I missed the set and the fish swam off in a huff. 

It’s not so much about landing the trout as it is letting them teach me about their lives. It’s learning to trust myself wading in really slippery conditions (these rocks were the slickest I’ve ever walked on). It’s deepening my connection with Nature. And today, deepened a friendship.

Bambi dried out and ready to fish again.

My Garmin watch said I walked 6.46 miles and fished 4 ½ hours with 13,963 steps and 326 floors climbed. My body agrees with those stats.  It was rainy and chilly with the temperature hovering around 52 degrees. The water was 52 degrees. Thanks to great gear, I remained dry and mostly warm. It was worth every step, every incline climbed. 

I’m gradually progressing in the lessons my trout magi teachers are imparting to me. Today, one almost allowed me the honor of netting her….alas, I wasn’t quite ready. But I’ll always remember….the one that got away. And I’ll got back to try again another day. 


Yesterday I bought this little fishing line waste container and hooked it to my vest. I hate losing small pieces of tippet in the water and even if I put them in my vest pocket, they get pulled out when I go back into the pocket. Today, after two casts, I found a HUGE wad of fishing line and a lure left by a spin tackle fisher. It took me 10 minutes to untangle the mess from a wad of wet leaves. I was so very glad I spent $12 for this little canister.

What is Your Message to the Earth?

What is Your Message to the Earth?

I love to walk at a very beautiful place in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I go there regularly and have started picking up trash there because the first mile of trail is used by tubers on the creek and they are really being litter bugs this year. It’s been horrible to see the trash they leave behind.

Yesterday I picked up five bags of litter in that mile and today I thought there wouldn’t be as much. There wasn’t until I got to a popular viewing area. There I found a mound of trash…but it was from someone taking it out of the creek. And they had other piles created from their efforts along the creek.

While I was so happy that others are taking an interest in keeping our beautiful creek/trail clean, I wondered if humans would ever wake up. Can they not see the beauty they are trashing? And it led to this question: What is your message to the Earth? What do your actions say? And I put it to a favorite song in this little video.